Malcom Gladwell is often misquoted that, ‘You need 10,000 hours to become an expert in a field.’ It’s not what he said. What he said is, ‘You need 10,000 hours to become a phenom in your field.’ An outlier, whose very name is synonymous with what you do.
Misquoted or not, the point of Dr. Gladwell’s statement rings true: The key to mastering a skill is practice. It makes sense, if you want to be good at something, you have to do it, and do it again, and do it one more time, and when you think you’re done, do it one more time just to make sure. A version of the quote comes from the show Cheer: ‘Do it until you get it right, and then do it until you can’t get it wrong.’
Writing and writing well is a skill. Like any skill, if you do it on a regular basis you get better at it. Talent is wonderful, and if you have it, I congratulate you, but talent will only get you so far. If you don’t have the drive to practice, to keep yourself sharp, to keep your talent growing, then eventually talent will be overtaken by someone who’s put in the time.
The first thing I ever wrote was shit. I mean, it was probably okay for my age, and my enthusiasm, but compared to where my writing is now, it was a steaming pile. The point is, I’ve been putting in the time since I was an adolescent. It doesn’t matter how you put in the time. Some people go to university and get a degree, and if you can do this, grand. However, it’s not the only way to get better. One of my writing professors, and I’ll never forget this because it was mildly insulting, said, in a discussion about becoming a better writer, ‘you can lock yourself in a room and write for three years, and at the end your writing will be better.’ So, really, it’s up to you how you get better. If you don’t have the time or money to go to university, that’s not stopping you from writing, and if you’re writing you’re getting better at writing.
And so, I ask you: What are you becoming an expert at? Binging internet series? Video games? Procrastinating? Or are you working your way to being an expert in the thing you say you love?
Until next time: Be yourself, be well. Write yourself, write well.